Social media learning curve – 10 tips for NHS Trusts

In our NHS trust we’re on a steep social media learning curve when it comes to connecting online with people who have an interest in our organisation. On Twitter we are @LeedsandYorkPFT and on Facebook we have a fan page for Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. We have a Youtube site and are in the process of setting up Pinterest for our campaigning work.

So here are ten things we’ve learnt so far:

Getting the basics in place – we have a section on our website with guidelines for members of the public about how we use social media.  We have also developed guidelines for our staff and are busy setting up a section of our intranet site to have useful information (such as guidance from professional bodies) in one place.  We find ourselves amending and adding to them as new issues and possibilities arise.

Connecting Twitter to Facebook – in the early days we connected our tweets to Facebook but quickly removed this link. As we began tweeting more we worried we risked spamming people with the volume of tweets popping up on Facebook. Secondly, we wanted to use Facebook a bit differently – less frequently but with longer content and photos. We’re about to start experimenting with opinion polls and event invites and generally encourage people to interact with us more on Facebook so separating them made sense.

To friend or not to friend – the steer in all the NHS related guidance that we’ve seen is for members of staff to not ‘friend’ anyone on their personal Facebook who is using services provided by the organisation. We’ve noticed it can be a bit more complicated. For example, there are plenty of people working in our NHS trust who also use our services. There aren’t necessarily straight divisions. So we are currently recommending that staff in our organisation do not ‘friend’ anyone they are working with in a clinical capacity (i.e. directly supporting). We want staff to make sure they are comfortable in their delineation of personal and professional life, that they avoid circumstances when they may inadvertently breach someone’s confidentiality, and they avoid compromising their clinical relationship. By helping staff think about the issues they can make their own sensible decisions.

Out of hours on Twitter – we’ve been @mentioned or received a direct message on Twitter over the weekend and have been concerned that we are not in a position to respond until we’re back at work on Monday. We have a section on our website explaining that we only tweet during working hours but it is unlikely everyone will read this. So we’ve started sending an automated closing tweet on a Friday at 4pm that says ‘if you need any advice or support over the weekend please see our website and we’ll be back tweeting on Monday’. This will be the first thing people see if the visit our Twitter feed.

Social media monitor – we have a member of the team on social media duty each day so that all our sites are regularly checked and we can respond quickly. We also have google searches set up so we are notified if anyone posts something about our organisation on a forum or website. This way we can respond promptly and offer to take things offline it people want to discuss any issues or concerns they have.

Responding to concerns – we are beginning to get more concerns raised with us publically, particularly on Twitter. We have thought carefully about how best to respond and crafted some general replies that we can adapt and post as a response. This means that whoever is on social media duty can feel confident in responding. We always offer to make contact with someone via email or on the phone to discuss their concerns and find out how we may be able to help.

Joining up the dots – we have crafted some tweets that we will send out intermittently during each week. We are going to have some regular tweets encouraging people using our services to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) if they have a query or concern they would like help to resolve. We are just launching a staff reward and recognition scheme and we are keen for people using our services and carers to make nominations, so we’ll also be promoting this through our social media channels. We plan to do more to let people know the different ways in which they can interact with our organisation.

Making use of #Hashtags – we’ve got a number of Twitter #hashtags for various topics that we tweet about. For example, #WYG is for our current What’s your Goal? campaign. #leedsandyorkBOD is for our Board of Directors meeting that we experimented with live tweeting from recently. We’ll keep playing with these and see if people engage with them or not.

Taking part in conversations – so far we’ve been heavy on broadcasting information and less confident in engaging in conversation. I personally find it much harder finding a personality for a Twitter site when it is a corporate one. But as our confidence grows we’ll get stuck in more.

And lastly…we are learning that if you engage in social media then you have to do it properly. Being half-hearted is probably worse than not doing it at all.

So what’s your experience? Does it chime with ours? and what can we learn from you? 


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